Nikko is one of my favorite places in Japan. I have a guide booklet from the temples that I got during one of my visits. I wanted to post some information from the booklet.
Page one: An Introduction to Rinno-ji Temple, Nikko
The temples in Nikko were founded in 766, during the Nara period, by Shodo -Shonin, a high Buddhist priest. To honor Kannon Buddha, Shodo crossed the Daiya River, climbed the mountain and built a hermitage, which he named Shihon-ryuji Temple. This is the origin of the temples of Nikko.
During the Heian period, Tamura-maro Sakanoue, a brave warrior, gave prayers at the temple. Later, Kobo Daishi, a high Buddhist priest, founded Takinoo Gongen and a few other temples. During the Kamakura period, successive lords of the Genji clan, Yoriyoshi, Yoritomo, and Sanetomo were devoted to Buddhism, and Prince Nincho was appointed abbot of the temples. It was the first time that a member of the Imperial family was appointed abbot. Imperial princes were also appointed abbots during later times through the Edo period. The interest of the Imperial family in Buddhism accelerated the prosperity of the temples.
The Nikko Mausoleum was erected during the Tokugawa period. The fifty-third Abbot, Jingen Daishi, enjoyed the deep confidence of Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. After the death of the Shogun, the priest, according to the Shogun's will, removed his ashes from Kuno-san Temple and moved them to Nikko and founded the mausoleum of Toshogu Shrine. Later, he built another one, Taiyuin, in Nikko, for the third Tokugawa Shogun, Iyemitsu. The ex-Emperor, Gomizuno, granted the title of Rinno-ji to this mausoleum.
Although the temple underwent a fluctuation of prestige with the change of times, the rules and rituals have been maintained since its foundation. As a religious center of the Tendia sect of Buddhism, Rinno-ji Temple today is devoted to the establishment of eternal religious principles in a Buddha kingdom through its religious and social services.
View Larger Map